Preparing for Year End by Keeping Critical Business Apps in Business


As year end approached, IT was under the gun more than ever to deliver performance for critical business applications. The hybrid infrastructures of modern enterprises have countless moving parts — some of them under your control because they're running on your own infrastructure, others rented as SaaS applications from outside vendors — and all of them have to work together to make sure you meet annual revenue and performance goals. As Peter Baskette, Riverbed's senior director of IT user experience shows us, Riverbed can help organizations keep on top of both scenarios, protecting the business bottom line when it matters most.

Riverbed for Riverbed

The most critical time for most businesses is the end of the year. That's when they book orders and plan to take in much of their projected revenue. During this high-stress time, performance can have a real impact on earnings and share prices; a single poorly timed infrastructure problem can cause a chain reaction that affects multiple parts of the organization.

Riverbed is no exception to this rule. And to make sure Riverbed meets its own end-of-year revenue targets, we implement performance monitoring and network acceleration on our internal infrastructure, relying on our own products — like SteelHead for industry-leading WAN acceleration, SteelConnect for next-gen software-defined networking, SteelFusion for business continuity and security at the edge, and SteelCentral for digital experience management. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, digital experience management unifies user experience, application, infrastructure, and network visibility to monitor and proactively improve performance and keep businesses running smoothly. Given our headquarters' proximity to the Napa Valley, you might say we drink our own Cabernet.

As Riverbed's senior director of IT responsible for end user experience, Baskette gets a front-row seat. He started by talking a little about how the team has used Riverbed's own performance-monitoring products to help the company close its quarters in as smooth and trouble-free a fashion as possible.

When it’s within IT’s control

To start with, Baskette explains, his team met with the lines of business stakeholders to identify the specific, critical activities that contribute to a successful quarter resolution: sales, manufacturing, invoicing, quote to cash, and so on. "We tried to take the perspective of the business activities themselves, and noted which were driven by specific applications within the environment," says Baskette. "Then we used SteelCentral to map that data back to the applications, infrastructure, and network."

Now they had a grid of real-time performance indicators to measure against. Green was good, yellow concerning, and red, you can guess. "On our first few cycles, we'd end up having a yellow or a red event coloring that particular quarter's end," he explains, "and that gave us an area to focus on and improve, part of a continual improvement model."

The real game changer came when Baskette's group was able to monitor not just the infrastructure backend and application health also but the end users' experience via Riverbed Aternity. Aternity helped IT ensure that key business constituents got the performance that they needed. Figures 1 and 2 show the insight Riverbed tools deliver.

Figure 1. SteelCentral Portal offers a top-level overview

Figure 2. Aternity insights into key year-end user groups

"Aternity is very powerful, giving both an early indication something's wrong and a good direction in which to troubleshoot, because it measures from the point of consumption — the user’s device," says Baskette. "It translates into less downtime overall, when there's an issue, and very often we're able to identify an issue that may happen, or is happening but has yet to affect the business itself, and intervene before it even manifests as a problem."

IT's always tasked with justifying its value to the business. "The challenge is that we're actually delivering the presence of absence," says Baskette.  "That row of green [in SteelCentral] is a tangible indicator of smooth sailing, and that has benefits that accrue up and down the chain." That leaves the rest of the company free to do business, closing quarters as planned and booking every dollar they can.

Sounds like Riverbed's Cabernet tastes pretty good.

Flip the script: Troubleshooting outside the organization

So that's one way Riverbed ensures its internal infrastructure runs smoothly to meet business requirements. But can the same tools help when an important third-party vendor's application goes awry? Indeed they can, he says, by detecting and providing evidence of issues in cloud vendors’ environments.

"Over a number of days we were experiencing slow response and lag on a key third-party application. It degraded performance intermittently and seemed to be getting worse," says Baskette. "With Aternity we were able to visualize the issue and collect data from the end-user perspective."

Aternity showed that there was clearly a deviation from the norm. But the vendor would not proactively engage with Baskette's problem ticket, or even acknowledge a problem on its end. That's when the Aternity data came in handy.

Figure 3. Trouble with a SaaS vendor

"We were able to trot out those statistics and say, 'Look, this is exactly what the problem is. Please go in and fix it,'" says Baskette. And the vendor did, discovering that the cause was a localized issue affecting a subset of their customers, including Riverbed. "They weren't picking this up, so the ability to reverse that discussion? Incredibly powerful. "

"We absolutely rely on that third-party app. At quarter's end that problem could've turned us red, and who knows what sort of impact it would've had?"

Dive deeper

Want to learn more about how Riverbed products can ensure a smooth end of quarter? Get more info from these videos: